Kaneland teachers say another $500K could settle contract

  • Susan Acksel, chief negotiator for the Kaneland Education Association, answers a question from an audience member, while other members of the union's negotiating team review other questions, at a forum the union hosted Thursday night about its position as it bargains for a new contract.

    Susan Acksel, chief negotiator for the Kaneland Education Association, answers a question from an audience member, while other members of the union's negotiating team review other questions, at a forum the union hosted Thursday night about its position as it bargains for a new contract. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 
Posted11/13/2015 5:02 AM

About $500,000 stands between the Kaneland school district and a new teachers contract, representative of the teachers union said Thursday night.

The union held a forum to discuss its view of the contract negotiations and what it believes the district should be paying its members.

 

The union contends that the district has trouble attracting new teachers because its starting pay is second to lowest among 14 area districts. And it has trouble keeping teachers because of its pay rates, union leaders said.

"The KEA would never ask for anything that we didn't think the district could afford. It is not beneficial for us to do so," said Lori Shroka, the union's president.

Susan Acksel, the union's chief negotiator, said it would be "inappropriate" to provide a specific total number for pay increases it wants over a three-year contract. She did say the union wants to raise the base pay for a starting teacher to $39,500, which would be about 6 percent higher than the current rate, and that there is a $500,000 difference between what the union and the school board want.

The school board Monday said it has offered to pay teachers $3 million more over the three years. It said the increase would equate to about 5 percent per year.

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Acksel and other members of the negotiating team repeatedly said that they believe the district has enough money in its reserves to accommodate their suggested pay increase.

And if the district is going to compare Kaneland's test scores to those of 13 other nearby districts, "then our salaries should be comparable as well," Shroka said.

Another topic that has not been settled is some risk protection for the school district, should the state send it less general state aid or shift more of the cost of teachers' pensions on to the district. For the third year of the contract, the district has proposed decreasing the amount of raises, if changes made by the state cost the district at least $200,000.

Audience members asked if their property taxes would increase if the teachers got the raise they are seeking; about the district's reserves; if teachers contribute to their pension plan; and why the union thinks pay is a reason teachers have left.

The union issued an intent-to-strike notice Nov. 5. However, before it could strike, several other steps would have to be taken, including the declaration of an impasse and the posting of both sides' final offers with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. So the earliest a strike could happen would be the middle of December.

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